What do Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk and Parliament Speaker Oleksandr Turchynov have in common with members of a satanic religious sect based in central Ukraine? They are all part of a broad movement to destroy the Russian Orthodox Church, according to Russia's leading state-run broadcaster.
The August 17 report on Rossia 24 begins with news that a devil-worshipping religious sect has received permission from local authorities to build a church, focusing on footage of a lamb that is apparently about to be slaughtered in a ritual sacrifice.
But to reporter Nikolai Sokolov, the woolly ruminant is only the furriest of the many potential victims of the new pro-European Ukraine, which, he says, "is now an ideal laboratory for [religious] sects." And the trouble, he says, starts at the top.
"Where Kiev Rus was born the Russian Orthodox Church is losing numbers," he says, referring to the medieval Slavic state that laid the Orthodox foundations for modern-day Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine. "Many politicians are of different religions. Oleksandr Turchynov, for instance, combines his activities in the parliament with meetings of Baptists. To them he isn't just a parishioner, but a spiritual teacher."
There are an estimated 100 million Baptist community members worldwide, but they make up less than 1 percent of Ukraine's population. Turchynov is not the only non-Orthodox believer in power, says Sokolov. Yatsenyuk is something that may be even worse: "a follower of Scientology," the controversial religious group that Russia has refused to recognize.
Except he's not. Despite popular online rumors that he is either a Scientologist or Jewish, Yatsenyuk identifies himself as a Ukrainian Greek Catholic—a church that makes up 14 percent of Ukraine's population. But perhaps for the purposes of the report it's a difference without a distinction. Russian officials and media figures opposed to the government in Kiev have frequently padded their rhetoric with nationalistic calls to protect ethnic Russians and their Russian Orthodox beliefs, wherever threats may arise.
Some actions by pro-Russian separatists appear to be at least indirectly tied to these religious calls. In June, a group of local residents and armed Russian Cossacks in Crimea, which was annexed by Russia in March, ransacked a Ukrainian Orthodox Church. And earlier this summer, four leaders of a Protestant church in Slovyansk—then controlled by separatists—were kidnapped from a service and killed some 16 hours later.
This post appears courtesy of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.